World News

Israel heading for early elections after turbulent week for Netanyahu

Posted November 16, 2018 9:09 a.m. EST

— Israel will pick a date for early elections on Sunday, a source close to a key minister told CNN, following a turbulent week for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that saw key government resignations and calls for an early vote.

The decision to call early elections came after crunch talks between Netanyahu and the rightwing Education Minister Naftali Bennett broke down on Friday.

Bennett had threatened to quit the government if he wasn't given the defense portfolio after the resignation of former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday, but Netanyahu rejected Bennett's demands.

After Friday's meeting, the source, who is close to Bennett, told CNN: "There was a need to go to elections as soon as possible, with no possibility of continuing the current government. A date for the elections is expected to be decided on Sunday following a meeting of the coalition party heads."

On Thursday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri also called for early elections.

Bennett's withdrawal from the coalition would leave Netanyahu without the minimum 61 seats needed to govern, making elections inevitable and ending a government that lasted nearly four years.

A spokesman for Netanyahu's Likud party said in a statement after the meeting with Bennett that the Prime Minister would try to stabilize his government on Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting.

"At the beginning of the week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold conversations with the heads of the coalitions, and he relies on the ministers' responsibility not to make a historic mistake in toppling a right-wing government," the statement said.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed that it's important to make every effort in order to preserve the right-wing government and not to repeat the historical mistake of 1992 when a right-wing government was toppled, raised the left to power and brought the Oslo disaster upon Israel."

By law, the government must choose an election date within three to five months, making March or May the most likely time for elections. April is unlikely because of Jewish holidays during the month.